Shelton Says U.S. Readiness Acceptable
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 13, 1998 The U.S. military has an acceptable level of readiness and is ready to execute U.S. national security strategy, the nation's top military man told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Army Gen. Hugh Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified Feb. 3 on the fiscal 1999 defense budget. He said the military remains "fully capable of conducting operations across the spectrum of conflict. We are fundamentally healthy and will continue to report our readiness status to the Congress and the American people with candor and accuracy."
Maintaining readiness is DoD's highest priority, Shelton said. The U.S. ability to apply decisive force anywhere in the world makes this country the pre-eminent military power, he said. This capability is also a major stabilizing factor in international affairs.
He said since the end of the Cold War there has been an increase in the pace of operations. "There is no question that our increased [operation] tempo ... in conjunction with coalition, joint and service exercises, has had an impact on readiness," Shelton said. "After all, if you use equipment more often than planned, it has a tendency to wear out sooner. And I might add, the same can be said for our people."
Anecdotal evidence indicates some units are experiencing tactical readiness problems, he continued. The stories tell of the effects in foxholes, at the squadron level or on the bridges of ships. Shelton said the Joint Chiefs, the combatant commanders in chief and the services are aware of these problems and are addressing them.
Recruiting good people and retaining them remain concerns for the department, he said. "Given the demanding pace of our military operations, it is all the more important to help our people focus on the mission -- free from worry about their families or their quality of life," he told the senators.
He laid out the four core areas of quality of life: adequate pay; affordable, accessible medical care; stable retirement; and safe, affordable housing. He urged the panel to continue its support for these core areas.
Shelton also urged the senators to support DoD calls for another base realignment and closure commission. DoD proposes rounds of closures and realignments in 2001 and 2005. Defense officials said without the money saved through these efforts, the department cannot meet modernization targets.
The general asked the committee to support the expansion of NATO with the admission of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. In the meantime, he said, the U.S. military will continue confidence-building measures with Russia and Ukraine.
"We must convey [to them] that NATO is not an adversary, but an instrument of peace and stability, a means for greater cooperation between our neighbors," he said.
Finally, Shelton called on Congress to act quickly on a DoD request for supplemental funding for fiscal 1998. This money will cover expenses the department incurs in maintaining a follow-on force in Bosnia after the June end of the NATO stabilization force mission and increased operations in the Persian Gulf region. "We cannot sacrifice money from our current readiness or modernization accounts to fund the follow-on presence," he said.